On Leaving the Brick-and-Mortar Classroom

I’ve been a high school teacher for the last 25 years. I’m also leaving the classroom — but I’m not leaving teaching. Next year will be my 26th year teaching, and I’ve been told that I’ll be teaching on-line, from an office.

screensharing

This is how we all taught during the fourth quarter of the last school year, except we did it from home, since brick-and-mortar schools shut down, all over the world, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We used screensharing in Google Hangouts (shown above), Google Classroom, e-mail, and lots of other things to finish the school year . . . and we did finish it, successfully. This year, teachers won’t be at home (unless things change, due to the coronavirus), but many of our students will be staying home.

After I’d finished everything up for the 2019-2020 year, I went to school to turn in my keys. At that point, it was obvious that we were likely to have some sort of dual-track system for 2020-2021, with some students receiving instruction at school, and others at home, remotely, using their district-issued Chromebooks. I told my principal that if we did end up doing such a system, that I wanted to be on the “home team.” I don’t want to have to go to school and risk COVID-19 infection, which could then be spread to my family, some of whom are in high-risk groups for this disease. I’ve now received confirmation that I will be a remote-learning instructor next year, presumably working with students from all over the district.

I’m going to miss my old school, both the Sylvan Hills High North Campus and the Sylvan Hills High Main Campus. Sylvan Hills taught me a lot about being a better teacher. As a result, I’m leaving with an improved ability to help students, compared to six years ago, when coming to Sylvan Hills from other schools. My principals at these two campuses deserve a lot of the credit for this. I’ve worked with many administrators over the years, and these two are the ones who have helped me the most in my efforts to become a better teacher.

The coming year will present many challenges. To teach effectively, you have to get to know your students. We’ll be doing instruction and discussions with computers, webcams, microphones, and speakers, so I’m going to have to make a lot of adjustments to get to know my students as real people, while teaching remotely for a full year. The end of the last school year gave me a lot of experience I can build on.

This next year should be interesting, and I am looking forward to it.

A “Thumbs Up” for Google Classroom

This is my 22nd year of teaching, but my first year using Google Classroom. We’re finding it to be a useful tool. This, for example, is the diagram for the Atwood’s machine lab we are doing in Pre-AP Physical Science, beginning today. My students will find this waiting for them in their virtual classroom (on Chromebooks my school district provides), with discussion-prompts to get us started:

atwoods-machine-diagram

I had no idea that four years of blogging, here on WordPress, had been preparing me to use this teaching tool. However, active blogging does require one to develop some transferable skills, especially in fields (such as what I teach) which are similar to the topics of one’s blog, as is the case here.

All the Classes I Have Taught, or Am Teaching (Updated for 2016-17)

This is my 22nd year teaching. Just as a test of my memory, I’m going to try to list every class I have ever taught, or am teaching now. The italics indicate the subjects which I am most confident I can teach well, whether I am teaching them currently, or not. Classes in my 2016-2017 teaching assignment are shown in bold. As for improving the others: I’ll work more on them . . . when the current school year is over. 2016-2017 is a rare year, in a good way: the classes in bold are now a subset of the classes in italics.

  1. Algebra I
  2. Algebra II
  3. Algebra III
  4. Algebra Lab
  5. A.P. Physics
  6. Area I Mathematics at Arkansas Governor’s School — a course focusing on polyhedra
  7. Bridge to Algebra II, which I can’t help thinking of as “Algebra 1.5”
  8. Chemistry
  9. Chemistry I (no, I have no idea why that particular school called it that; I never found “Chemistry II” there)
  10. Civics
  11. Economics
  12. Environmental Science
  13. Formal Geometry
  14. Geometry
  15. Geometry Lab
  16. Informal Geometry
  17. Physical Science
  18. Physics
  19. Pre-AP Physical Science
  20. Psychology
  21. Religion, 9th grade (at a private, religious school)
  22. Religion, 12th grade (at a private, religious school)
  23. Study Skills (while student teaching)
  24. Summer School Transition Camp (for incoming high school students)
  25. University Studies (my only foray into teaching at the college level; basically, an “Intro to College” course, for entering freshmen)
  26. U.S. History Since 1890
  27. World History (while student teaching)
  28. World History Since 1450

X. In-school Suspension (ISS), also known as SAC, which stands for the horribly-misleading euphemism, “Student Assistance Center.” I used an “X” instead of a number because, as a student or a teacher, SAC is not a class, nor a subject. It is, rather, a non-class which one endures until the merciful ringing of the bell at the end of the school day.

XX. “Saturday School,” which is like ISS/SAC, but even worse, for all concerned. (I really needed the extra money at that time.)

To anyone now working on becoming a teacher: you become much more employable if you become certified in multiple certification areas, as I have. This is a two-edged sword, though, for it definitely increases the number of subjects you may be asked to teach in any given year, and that’s also the reason my list above is so long.

One other thing I definitely remember is my first year’s salary, to the cent: $16,074.00, before any deductions. You can make a living in this field, in this country . . . after you’ve been in the classroom for a few years . . . but no one should expect making it, financially, to be easy, especially for the first 5-7 years.

Zome: Strut-Length Chart and Product Review

This chart shows strut-lengths for all the Zomestruts available here (http://www.zometool.com/bulk-parts/), as well as the now-discontinued (and therefore shaded differently) B3, Y3, and R3 struts, which are still found in older Zome collections, such as my own, which has been at least 14 years in the making.

Zome

In my opinion, the best buy on the Zome website that’s under $200 is the “Hyperdo” kit, at http://www.zometool.com/the-hyperdo/, and the main page for the Zome company’s website is http://www.zometool.com/. I know of no other physical modeling system, both in mathematics and several sciences, which exceeds Zome — in either quality or usefulness. I’ve used it in the classroom, with great success, for many years.